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Apple's chief patent attorney leaving, report says

Reuters says that Richard "Chip" Lutton Jr. is being replaced by BJ Watrous, the former deputy general counsel for Hewlett-Packard.

Apple's chief patent attorney will be leaving the company soon, Reuters is reporting.

According to the news service's sources, Richard "Chip" Lutton Jr. is on his way out at Apple. Reuters did not say why he might be leaving, but its sources said that Lutton will likely officially depart Apple at some point "in the next month."

The loss of Lutton comes at a time when Apple finds itself embroiled in a host of patent suits. Arguably its most pressing legal issue is with Samsung, at which Apple fired a salvo earlier this year, alleging that the Korean company was "copying" its mobile hardware and operating system design in its smartphones and tablets. Samsung fired back with claims that Apple was violating some of its own patents in its mobile devices.

Just last week, Apple took its case to the U.S. International Trade Commission, requesting the organization block the importation of Samsung's Android smartphones and tablets into the U.S.

"Apple's innovations and products have been the subject of widespread imitation by Apple's competitors," Apple wrote in its complaint. "Others have attempted to capitalize on Apple's success by copying its innovative technology, distinctive user interface and overall product design."

Apple went on to call Samsung one of the "principal infringers."

But Samsung isn't Apple's only worry right now. Just yesterday, Apple reportedly filed a second complaint with the International Trade Commission against HTC, saying that over 12 of the mobile-device maker's Android smartphones, as well as the Flyer tablet, violated its patents.

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For its part, HTC said that it's willing to battle it out with Apple to protect its own intellectual property.

"HTC is dismayed that Apple has resorted to competition in the courts rather than the market place," Grace Lei, general counsel for HTC said in response to Apple's complaint. "HTC continues to vehemently deny all of Apple's past and present claims against it and will continue to protect and defend its own intellectual property as it has already done this year."

Although Lutton might not be there to defend Apple, Reuters says the iPhone maker has already found his replacement.

BJ Watrous, former vice president and deputy general counsel, intellectual property and licensing, at Hewlett-Packard will be replacing Lutton, Reuters is reporting. Watrous' LinkedIn page currently lists HP as his past employer. His current position is listed at "vice president and chief IP counsel, Apple." According to his LinkedIn page, Watrous joined Apple last month.

Neither Lutton nor Apple immediately responded to CNET's request for comment.